Australia boosted by North's steady approach
Since 2005 Australia have wanted a match-turner at No. 6, but in Marcus North they have an accumulator who is not in a rush to blast bowlers or go fishing. In two of his three Tests, North has made important contributions to boost the team, pushing them ahead patiently and contentedly.
Over the past 12 months the side has had to develop a different attitude, engaging in lengthy arm wrestles instead of shoot-outs. Andrew Symonds' final Test was in the West Indies last year and the departure of Matthew Hayden also forced the team to water down its attacking policy. North is not out of place when he lifts his pace, but Australia have benefited from his measured outlook.
Most importantly for the squad, gloomy scenarios don't bother North. There was a century on debut in Johannesburg, where he picked Australia up from 151 for 4, and here he entered with the side still 104 in arrears. Any slip would have exposed the lower order and threatened the gains made by the impressive centuries of Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich.
Instead North remained unflustered during his 54 after joining Michael Clarke in a settling stand of 143 that took Australia towards the end-of-day comfort of 479 for 5. "Northy has played brilliantly again, as he did in Worcester," Clarke said. "I think he's looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and getting another big score."
North's first ball provided a minor scare, when Monty Panesar spun one back and he didn't offer a shot, and there were a couple of miscued sweeps, but usually he offered a confident bat. This was not the man of two weeks ago who looked so uncomfortable in three tour-game innings. Peace and security came with his unbeaten 191 at Worcester and on the opening two days in Cardiff his offspin was not required, leaving him to concentrate on his batting.
No runs arrived for him before lunch, but he drove Stuart Broad for four through mid-on to open his account from his 12th ball. From there he would wait patiently until the boundary ball arrived, striking seven of them during his 131 deliveries. Clarke, Ponting and Katich were more effective, but North played the role of the steady man in the middle order.
"Simon and Ricky were unbelievable," Clarke said. "Marcus and I cashed in on some tired England bowlers. The start we got was fantastic and it was up to Northy and I, first to get into our innings, and then play away."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo